The new generation of brides and grooms are always on the lookout for trending elements, these include food buffets and bar setups that are anything but regular for their wedding functions. They want to do something different that will be memorable for their guests. These couples are interested in showcasing unique and offbeat gastronomy such as DIY food stalls, vegan and healthy dishes or cuisine cooked with local ingredients and techniques. The Taj is committed to providing exemplary service and is well equipped to cater to all special requests, to help make your wedding timeless. Here, we interviewed Shyam Longani, Executive Chef, Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Goa; Amit Chowdhury, Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, and Elangovan Shanmugam, Chef at Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur, and asked them about current food trends in the wedding industry.
1. What are some of the food menu related requests that you receive from the new generation of brides and grooms?
Amit: “The new generation of brides and grooms are prioritizing their guest’s preferences over their own. We have been receiving numerous food requests such as a Keto or Paleo menu, allergy-free dishes, infused products like turmeric honey and charcoal water, more varieties of cuisines, interactive food experiences, alcohol incorporated into dishes, 24/7 menu options and specialties from celebrity dishes.”
Elangovan: “There is an increased demand for healthy food. Brides and grooms are looking for options that are healthy, and at the same time, are delicious and inventive. Additionally, more couples are making a statement with their food choices. They are incorporating traditional dishes from their heritage or paying homage to foods from their regional hometowns. Moreover, numerous couples are opting for formal, sit-down dinners.”
2. Do couples come to you with special requests such as vegan, gluten-free or healthy dishes? How do you accommodate these requests?
Shyam: “We do get specific requests for individuals, which need to be personalized. Most couples or hosts have gone to the extent of finding out the dietary requirements of their guests. We are well equipped to cater to all special requests, without exception.”
Amit: “For vegan guests, we offer dairy-free and meat-free selections from the menu. For gluten-free guests, we provide gluten-free options like alternative flours for breads. We use mock meats like tempeh to recreate traditionally non-vegetarian dishes. For healthy food requests such as Keto and Paleo, we use grains such as farro, buckwheat, black wheat, quinoa, and so on.”
3. Today’s to-be-wed couples are interested in doing something unique for their weddings, even when it comes to their food menu. What suggestions do you have for them?
Elangovan: “Twenty years ago, wedding food was more focused on large buffets and very elaborate set-ups. Today, the trend is moving towards a fresher style of cooking, where the process is more visible. Indian customers are also evolving when it comes to deciding wedding menus. They are not necessarily sticking to the usual suspects like Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala or Rogan Josh. They are exploring different regional cuisines like Manglorean food and Rajasthani food. We generally suggest trying a blend of cuisines. For instance, we recommend a Pan Asian menu for lunch, followed by a Rajasthani menu for dinner.”
Shyam: “It’s good to be new and creative. But after a meal or two, most guests want comfort dishes, which are satisfying. They prefer traditional dishes with a focus on freshness, quality and presentation. I believe a small menu with good quality food is the way to go. Also, dishes and cuisine must vary with every meal.”
Amit: “My suggestions are to have photogenic dishes for social media, customized dishes, savory desserts such as Madras Curry Macarons, innovative cakes like macaron towers and crepe cakes, and hybrid dishes like Cronuts, Ramen Burger, Sushi Burger, Cruffins and inventive, deceptive foods.”
4. DIY food stalls such as make your own dessert counter or make your own cheese platter are becoming quite popular. What are your thoughts on interactive buffets?
Amit: “We regularly use live stations at the hotel for major events. They make the experience much more personalized for guests. The counters could have a theme to match the guests’ requirements. For instance, we could have different stalls representing different stages of the couple’s life.”
Shyam: “Interactive and immersive buffets need passionate chefs and vibrant servers to make it interesting. One needs to have something really exciting to offer at these counters to be able to do justice and sustain guests’ interest for long.”
5. Focusing on local cuisine and ingredients has become a major food trend worldwide. How can couples incorporate this aspect in their food menu?
Elangovan: “We, at Umaid Bhawan Palace, do a lavish Royal Marwar Thali using local ingredients and regal recipes, which is served in a sit-down style, enhancing the overall dining experience at the wedding. Additionally, people do not want food that has travelled thousands of miles to reach their country. They want us to use produce that is locally available in India.”
Amit: “We have a lot of guests who enquire about the source of the ingredients, and request for local ingredients. In order to cater to their requests, we source a majority of our ingredients locally. Also, we try and incorporate innovative, local ingredients that are sourced from smaller producers rather than major brand names.”
6. With more and more people turning vegetarian, what advice do you have for couples who would like to incorporate innovative vegetarian dishes in their menus?
Shyam: “Vegetarian food is here to stay. In India, we are blessed with incredible produce and vegetarian recipes from all the various regions of the country. Although it is a challenge to cook for vegetarians, it is very satisfying when chefs can create classics without using meat. I am a big advocate of coming up with vegetarian versions of all dishes be it traditional or exotic. Some of these include Nadru (lotus stem) Shami Kebab, Tofu Carpaccio and Confit of Mushrooms.
Amit: Some innovative vegetarian ideas include creating a “root to stem” concept as a buffet theme and using various parts of the same plant in different dishes. Also, couples can request chefs to use zucchini noodles in place of regular egg noodles and use Aquafaba and other egg white replacers to create vegetarian versions of classically egg-containing desserts like macarons and meringues.
7. What additional advice do you have for couples that would like to do something unusual for the food menu of their wedding functions?
Amit: “Some additional unique food-related ideas include having personalized gifts such as goodie bags with customized desserts, the use of rustic props and sculptures to enhance the food menu theme and informative displays with calorie count and sugar content for the health-conscious.”
Shyam: “Spend time with your chefs and discuss the food menu at length. Get suggestions from your chefs, entrust them and have faith in them. Do trials and tastings. Share your feelings and thoughts with your chefs, so that they are able to transform your ideas into sensational dishes and do justice to your event. Last but not least, be practical and choose quality over huge spreads.”